Tight End Kyle Rudolph
September 6, 2021
Q: How do you feel?
A: I feel great. I’m extremely excited. I feel like Week 1 in the NFL is always a really, really, exciting week. Every team in the NFL’s goals are out in front of them. You’ve worked since we came back together virtually in April for this week. Everything that we’ve done through virtual meetings, OTAs, minicamp, training camp is for this. These are the games that matter. These are the games that are for real.
Q: You sound like a guy who’s ready to play.
A: Absolutely. Yeah, I couldn’t be more excited. These last couple of weeks for me, I said it up in New England, this is what I love to do. I love being out there with my teammates. I tell people all the time, the hardest part of our game is when you’re injured, and you can’t be on the field. That’s what I dealt with for eight months since December and it was just really exciting for me the last couple of weeks being back out there.
Q: Are you ready to play 60 snaps if you need to on Sunday?
A: Yeah, I’m always ready to play 60 snaps. You play this game long enough you know what it takes. For me, early on in my career, I kind of learned – it’s cliché to say it – but you approach each play and then I kind of learned it when you play preseason games – everybody knows you may play eight plays, you may play 12 plays, you may get a quarter, but you’re not playing the whole game. But yet, you prepare that entire week like you’re going to play the whole game and that really has taught me over the years how to (be) on Sundays, go out there and play one play at a time. You play one play at a time, you put one foot in front of the other – and if that’s 30 times, 60 times, 75 times, so be it.
Q: What are the qualities of (Head Coach) Joe Judge that have stood out to you?
A: The biggest thing for me is his leadership. This is my first time playing for a head coach that’s not an offensive or defensive-minded coach. He’s a guy that in his special teams background, he’s had the whole team in his room for all of his meetings and you see that throughout our entire locker room. The leadership of the guys on offense, guys on defense, certainly guys on special teams that he has a close eye on. So for me, it would be his leadership ability.
Q: How does your role change if (Tight End) Evan (Engram) doesn’t play?
A: You know what, to me, I probably couldn’t sit up here and tell you how my role is at this point anyways. We’re going to go out there and the guys we got are going to give it everything we have to try to go beat the Denver Broncos. In this league, all you’re doing is worrying about 1-0 this week. We want to go beat the Denver Broncos.
Q: Is that a little strange for you as a guy who was in one place for so long and was so entrenched there and come here and not really know kind of how you’re going to fit in?
A: I’d be lying to you if I’d knew what my role was each and every week in Minnesota, as well. That’s the nature of our position. When you go into a game, you may catch 10 balls. You may not catch a single ball and you may be in pass protection. You look at the team that we’re playing and the two guys that they have on the edge, I can guess what my role’s going to be for most of the game. But at the same time, you just have no idea and that’s part of the beauty of the tight end position. You have to be locked in on every play because our role is in all three phases of the game – run, pass and protection.
Q: The offensive line has taken its share of criticism, but you haven’t been in there and that’s one of your strengths. How much can you improve the line by being in there?
A: I mean, I’m not going to improve those guys. Those are five guys that have worked extremely hard. Five guys that in my opinion, have the toughest job in our game. You think about who are the highest paid players on defense, it’s the guys they’ve got to keep from getting to the quarterback. But at the same time, I have done a lot more pass protecting and blocking in recent years, so if I can be there for them and help them and take some of the burden off them in protection, then I’ll gladly do it.
Q: I know it’s part of your assignment this week, but a guy who’s playing quarterback for Denver you’re pretty familiar with.
A: Yeah, he’s as good as they come. I couldn’t be happier for (Broncos Quarterback) Teddy (Bridgewater) for his opportunity to be the starting quarterback. He deserves it. What he went through when we were together, the fact that he’s even playing football right now is a true testament to him and his work ethic.
Q: Do you sneak into the defensive room and let them pick your brain a little bit?
A: I’m pretty familiar with this quarterback and that offense on the other side. I played in it for a few years as well, so if they ever have any questions, I’m here to help.
Q: Obviously, there’s the familiarity here for some of the guys with (Broncos Offensive Coordinator) Pat Shurmur calling the offense. You obviously – I remember talking to you when you guys were in the AFC title game about your affinity for Pat. Will it be good to see him, as well?
A: Yeah, he definitely will be one of those guys that hopefully after the game, after a win, I can go see him and say hi and ask him how he’s doing and how his family’s doing. He’s certainly one of the guys that I have a great affinity for in this game and I have a ton of respect for. I had him as a position coach, and I had him as a coordinator and he’s as good of a human being as they come and he’s equally as good of a coach.
Q: I know you don’t know if Evan or (Tight End) Kaden (Smith) can play, but if they can’t, is your foot ready to play 70 snaps a game?
A: Yeah, I answered that question before. Whatever’s needed from me, I’m ready to go. Whether it’s 25, 50, 75, who knows with overtime, we could get into the 80s or 90s. I’m just going to keep going until they take me out.
Q: It’s kind of funny how now you’re the healthy guy.
A: I’ve certainly had enough time to get healthy, so here we are.
Q: You mentioned, Joe Judge’s leadership, how does he lead? What is his leadership style?
A: He’s tough. He’s really tough. One of the first lines that stood out to me in our first team meeting in training camp was that it’s not going to be easy. His program here is not easy, but it’s worth it. I’ve mentioned my familiarity with that style having played for (Former Notre Dame Head) Coach (Charlie) Weis in college and it couldn’t be more true. He pushes us. He gets the most out of us, but at the same time, he’s always fair and it’s always worth it.